There are 7 clear divisions in the Bible, this is called a dispensation.
Dispensation comes from the word: to dispense, or to divide / to distribute.
A proper understanding of the bible REQUIRES “rightly dividing the word of truth”. (2 Timothy 2:15) We believe in 7 major “dispensations”. (The word “dispensation” occurs in 1Corinthians 9:17, Ephesians 1:10, 3:2, Colossians 1:25) These dispensations are;
1. The Garden of Eden. (Genesis 1:1-3:7)
2. The fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:7-24) till the giving of the law to Moses. (Exodus 20)
3. The law and the prophets until John the Baptist. (Matthew 11:13, Luke 16:16)
4. The “gospel of the kingdom” is preached between the time of John the Baptist and the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The two kingdoms presented to the Jews in this period, were the kingdom of heaven which is a physical, literal, earthly kingdom. (Matthew 11:12) The other kingdom preached was the kingdom of God. This is a SPIRITUAL kingdom. (Luke 17:20-21, Romans 14:17) This “gospel of the kingdom” was preached because the King of kings (The Lord Jesus Christ) was physically on the earth at that time.
5. The crucifixion, till the rapture of the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:51-58,
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) The book of Acts describes the formation of the Christian church and the development of our present gospel revealed to the apostle Paul.
(Romans 2:16, 16:25-26, 2 Timothy 2:8) The bible teaches that the gospel was first preached to the Jews (Romans 1:16) and because the Jews require a sign
(1 Corinthians 1:22) the early apostles were given special “sign gifts” to confirm the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:9-20, Acts 2). When Paul began to take the gospel to the Gentiles, the sign gifts were no longer necessary because the bibles says “….the Greeks seek after wisdom.” (1 Corinthians 1:22)
We do NOT believe in the heretical teachings of “hyper-dispensationalism”. (Stam, Bullinger, Moore, etc.) The bible plainly teaches that Paul was part of the same body of believers that Peter, John, Matthew, Mark, and Luke were part of. The gospel we preach today was not fully revealed until Paul showed up, BUT that doesn’t mean that the other apostles weren’t part of the same body of Christ that we are part of today. Paul stated in Romans 16:7 that there were believers “in Christ” BEFORE he himself was saved. To say that there are two bodies of Christ (crucifixion to Paul, Paul to the rapture) shows a high degree of ignorance of the scripture.
6. The rapture of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-58, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) until the second coming of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 24:29-41, Revelation 19:11-21) This period known as the “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21) and also as the “time of Jacob’s trouble” ( Jeremiah 30:7) will last approximately 7 years. In this period salvation is based on faith AND works. (James 2:14-26, Revelation 14:12) In the tribulation ANYONE who takes the mark of the beast and worships his image, will lose their salvation and can NEVER get it back. (Hebrews 3:14, 6:4-6, 10:26-27, Revelation 14:9-11)
7. The millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ on this earth (Revelation 20:4-6), will be the final dispensation. Salvation is accomplished through WORKS. (Matthew 5) No faith is connected with this dispensation because Jesus Christ will be visible to anyone on the earth. (Zechariah 12:10 and 13:1-6)
The extreme importance of clearly defining the above dispensations, cannot be overstated. Nearly ALL false doctrine taught today, is a direct result of NOT “rightly dividing the word of truth”. The huge variety of “Christians” stem mainly from not understanding the different dispensations.